21 July Sardine Report 2019
It’s been another cracking sardine season for the sardine run operators down in the Transkei and Natal. These guys have encountered bait balls daily and have been getting some spectacular video material, which we will get to see soon enough.
To make sure we are on top of things, we headed south on sardine patrol, and have the following to report.
July Sardine Report 2019
Port St Johns
Arriving in Port St Johns, we could already feel the buzz. The Umzimvubu was looking delightfully clean and there were boats everywhere. Anglers anchored in the channels, we saw one guy boat a 12kg class Garrick and a little Kob. Sardine safari boats moored at the line of jetties, all prepared for the mornings adventures.
We visited Offshore Africa down on the river, who run sardine run trips for two months through the season. Rob Nettleton and Debbie Smith (The Shark Lady), the operators, live in Port St. Johns and are consummate professionals in what they do. They chuck you right in with the sardines and sharks!
Chatting to Richie O’Connell who leads one of the boats, “You don’t even need a baitball to find and swim with sharks. They’re everywhere!”.
Rob showed me some of this year’s footage, the cameras are dressed up with much better and wider lenses making it possible to really capture all that is going on down there. Stay posted for this material when it comes out, it is truly work of underwater art.
Through the three days we spent scouring the views around Port St. Johns, we saw lots birds running south still. Some just sitting on the water too full to fly. And the odd dive bomber as sporadic shoals moved through under the surface. But the sardine spotters travelled north and south and every day out they have jumped in with sardines. Rob was on day 33!
Great views and nice swells greeted us here. But again, we never saw any real hot action from the shore. Lots of birds. Oil slicks from previous sorties. Crystal clear water. Very fishy looking.
We stayed at the pretty Coffee Shack where they installed us in the King’s House. A delightful cottage overlooking the entire bay flanked by the Sugarloaf and the Mbomvu point. Four delicious shad for breakfast.
The action was absolutely wild!
Shoals of sardines were being driven to the surface. Mainly it was dolphins but we also saw sharks breaching and some outsized yellowfin tuna. The gannets were raining down like bombs. And this was just the first shoal. They just kept coming through sporadically throughout the entire day. The huge waves, well ok 2 to 3m, were kind of keeping the action on the backline and only one occasion did they come right into the white water where they were obliterated.
When we came over the hill, the vista was unexpected. Waves were reeling down the point, the sand was connecting across the entire bay! There were a bunch of guys on it but the waves were plentiful and everyone was mellow.
There were birds diving and some dolphins were hunting but the water never smelled fishy and the surf continued even better the next day. When a fabulous Berg wind kicked mid-morning and painted the prettiest surfing picture I have seen for a while. Then the huge west that is currently blowing a gale at about 40 knots hit hard and so we moved on to the other side of the river to Freedom O’ Clock to catch up a bit.
And we got to throw a little video together quick…
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